03 SES 10 B, School Based Curriculum Development and Curriculum Policy
This paper discusses how teachers in high poverty schools make innovative and equitable curriculum choices to help support improved outcomes for all students. Our objective is to investigate how teachers work towards both quality and equity. The paper draws on data collected within two different studies, providing an opportunity to consider this question across contexts.
Teachers working with students whose lives are impacted upon by poverty are often required to do more than deal with academic matters. Teachers teaching in such contexts must be able to analyze situations and make ongoing ethical decisions about innovating their curriculum designs and their approach to pedagogy in the best interests of all of their students. To do this they need to be able to continuously gauge the effects of their practices on different students, and make professional judgments about the next curriculum and pedagogy step. Hence we argue that building teacher sociological knowledge and social justice dispositions and repertoires is a key goal for the continuing education of teachers across the teaching life-span.
Our work is informed by feminist and critical approaches to teachers’ work that highlight the complexity of everyday institutional life and the impacts of globalization on working-class and poor communities (Griffith & Smith, 2005: Nichols & Griffith, 2010; Lipman, 2004, 2005; Thomson, 2002). School reform literature has provided evidence that there are no quick fixes when our aim is to improve school outcomes for all students, despite the constant drive by systems toward finding ‘the’ method. Sustainable school reform requires commitment to collaborative curriculum reform work over time (Fullan, 2011). From a system point of view, successful reform requires just the right balance of informed prescription and informed professionalism (Luke, Woods, & Weir, 2013), that is enough accountability to ensure that teachers’ work can be steered toward valued outcomes, but sufficient levels of teacher autonomy to promote local decision making and in situ curriculum judgments in the best interests of students. Fullan’s (2011) investigations of successful school reform across systems suggest that in order to make a difference for all young people in schools the approach must: focus on capacity building of staff and students; hold pedagogy and the interactions between teachers and students and students and students as the central node of reform; encourage collaborative planning and teaching approaches; and result in group solutions and not individual solutions. We draw on this conceptual framework to provide ways to distill the practices which were evidenced at each of the schools that were the sites of our fieldwork, and to draw out key principles for successful schools in high poverty communities generally.
In this paper we present two case studies of the approaches to reform taken at two different schools. While both schools are situated in areas of high poverty, there is evidence of improved outcomes at both sites. Our cases demonstrate that while the specifics of the approaches taken are different, curriculum innovation and teacher collaborative professionalism are at the foundation of the achievements of both schools.
The paper is focused on answering the following research question as we draw key insights for the present and the future of schooling in high poverty communities across a variety of contexts:
What does curriculum innovation look like in schools in high poverty communities that are improving student learning?
Fraser, N. (2003). Social justice in the age of identity politics: Redistribution, recognition and participation. In N. Fraser & A. Honneth (Eds.), Redistribution or Recognition? A political-philosophical exchange. (pp.7-88). London: Verso. Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for system reform. Melbourne, Victoria: Centre for Strategic Education. Griffith, A., & Smith, D.E. (2005). Mothering for schooling. New York: RoutledgeFalmer. Hytten, K. & Bettez, S. (2011). Understanding social justice. Educational Foundations 25, 7-24. Lipman, P. (2004). High stakes education: Inequality, globalization and urban school reform. New York & London: Routledge Falmer. Lipman, P. (2005). Metropolitan regions – new geographies of inequality in education: The Chicago metroregion case. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 3(2), 141–163. Luke, A., Woods, A., & Weir, K. (2013). Curriculum design, equity and the technical form of the curriculum. In A. Luke, A. Woods, & C. Weir. (Eds.), Curriculum, syllabus design and equity. (pp. 6-39). New York, NY: Routledge. Nichols, N. & Griffith, A. (2009). Talk, texts, and educational action: an institutional ethnography of policy in practice. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 241 - 255. Thomson, P. (2002). Schooling the rustbelt kids: Making the difference in changing times. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
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